The Indian team for the World Cup 2011 has been finally announced and contrary to what chief selector Krishnamachari Srikkanth said, there were few surprises in the 15.
Munaf Patel’s impressive showing in the last few games helped him take the back-up seam bowler’s spot while Virat Kohli, expectedly sealed the batting spot. Yusuf Pathan, who for some reason did not inspire much confidence in the team management, took the all-rounder’s slot in the 15 while Ravichandran Ashwin joins as the spin partner for Harbhajan Singh.
The one selection in which raised eyebrows is that of Piyush Chawla, who last played for India in 2008. He has been named as the third spinner in the squad. This was a peculiar selection considering that the team does not contain a backup ‘keeper for Mahendra Sinngh Dhoni. The selection of Parthiv Patel would have made more sense. A team already heavy on tweakers did not need third spinner in the squad. If the team management wanted a leg-spin option they could have done without Ashwin.
I don’t see Chawla playing too many games in the World Cup either. To suddenly pick someone who hasn’t been considered for the National squad for almost three years is baffling. I kind of feel sorry for Pragyan Ojha and Amit Mishra who would be feeling hard done by this selection. The statement of Dhoni defending the selection of Chawla also makes no sense. You don’t select a bowler just because he bats a bit; batting should be a bonus. India is taking a huge risk by not including a second ‘keeper.
The rest of the squad though picks itself with Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag forming the top order, followed by Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Dhoni in the middle. Yusuf will be the all-rounder in the squad. Zaheer Khan will lead the seam department with Praveen Kumar and Ashish Nehra as support seam bowlers with Harbhajan Singh as the sole spinner in the squad.
Rohit ,as expected, did not make the squad as he was fighting a losing battle against Virat Kohli. Munaf edged out Sreesanth as the backup seamer with good performances in the lead up to the major event. His match-winning four-wicket haul in the second ODI certainly helped his selection ahead of Sreesanth. The Kerala speedster, unfortunately, did not get any chance to make a case for his selection. Ishant Sharma, obviously, did not stand a chance as his form in recent times has been really bad.
The 15 announced by the selectors seem like horses for courses. Chawla’s selection was the surprise element and I will be interested to see how Dhoni uses him in the World Cup. Except for this solitary contentious selection, the selectors have done a decent job in picking the team.
With the major event just a month away, I hope the players get enough chances in the ODI series against the South Africans. The injury to Tendulkar, Gambhir and Sehwag will also be a concern for the selectors, but going by the reports they should be fit for the tournament. The selectors have picked a fairly balanced team and now Dhoni and Kirsten have to make most of the resources available to emerge supreme.
Squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wicket-keeper), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Piyush Chawla, Ravichandran Ashwin.
(Giri Subramanian is a US-based software engineer who has been following cricket for over 20 years. He is a passionate Sachin Tendulkar and Team India fan)